Does the Customer have a place in the Process?

I have previously written about Finding the End-to-End Customer Perspective, in which I wrote about the scope of the defined Business Process having a big impact on the value proposition for the customer or stakeholder. Another aspect of end-to-end thinking is including the customer inside the Business Process.

Why do we need to include the Customer?

Think of a typical Business Process where a customer is making a request of your organisation, maybe they are filling in an application for credit.

The current (as-is) process is considered inefficient as customer contacts the Accounts department and an Accounting Clerk collects all of the relevant information from the customer and then faxes the customer a nearly completed form to finalise and return. It is decided that implementing a self-service web-site will improve efficiency and save the company several staff years in the Accounting department.

The new (to-be) process is implemented, at the start everything looks good, the customers are able to fill in the form on-line and easily print, sign and send the form in. The form is also easy for the Accounting department to process as the information is already available in the accounting system.

However, the Accounting department is busier than ever, the phone seems to be ringing more and staff morale is down. What happened?

The customer is not part of the process. A key part of this process, getting and completing the customer application form, has been pushed out and is no longer considered part of the process; however customers are taking longer to complete the information required, they often don’t understand what is require and they are ringing up for help to complete the form. Once submitted a high percentage of forms are rejected back to the customer because they are incorrectly completed, causing re-work and unhappy customers.

If the customer part of the process was measured, then it would show that the end-to-end process is now less efficient at achieving its customer driven goals than it was previously. The process design may be more efficient from the Accounting department’s perspective; however that is the wrong way to look at it – unhappy customers and staff is a guaranteed recipe for failure.

Another example of this concept is in Gary Comerford’s e-book, The Perfect Process Project; In Chapter 6 there is a great customer perspective story relating to a call centre. Call centres (ironically they are often called customer service centres) are always a good source for processes examples that do not include the customer!

Finally, Michael zur Muehlen has written a great article on the BPTrends site, Service Processes: The Customer at the Centre.

Can you think of one of your Business Processes that does not include the customer? What difference could you make if it did?

A great session on Lean Thinking?

In the previous post I referred to the Adelaide BPTrends Forum session that I attended, presented by Professor Peter Hines. I want to elaborate on what I got out of the session.

1. It is important to understand the fundamentals of the business and it’s strategy – common-sense management.

2. It is vital to understand how the business creates value for it’s customers. Customer surveys often focus on the products or services offered, not the experience that created the real value for the customer. Quite often organisations are not very clear about who their real customers are!

3. A good understanding of strategy and customer value leads to the ability to select to improve the processes that will be critical to achieving the organisations aims.

4. Detail this in a Purpose Statement, a practical communication about What we will do, How we will do it and What the outcome will be, including what the Critical Success Factors are and are we measuring the right metrics to achieve them?

Now the Process Improvement work can begin –

5. Understand the problem, what is the root cause and what opportunities exist to improve.

6. Ensure you have the right level of support. If Senior Managers are not behind the initiative and eager for success, then sucess is always going to be a big challenge.

Overall, a great session.